NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

What National and International Assessments Can Tell Us About Technology in Students’ Learning: Technology Instruction, Use, and Resources in U.S. Schools

As schools and school districts plan instruction amid the current coronavirus pandemic, the use of technology and digital resources for student instruction is a key consideration.

In this post, the final in a three-part series, we present results from the NAEP TEL and ICILS educator questionnaires (see the first post for information about the results of the two assessments and the second post for the results of the student questionnaires). The questionnaires ask about the focus of technology instruction in schools, school resources to support technology instruction, and the use of technology in teaching practices.

It is important to note that NAEP TEL surveys the principals of U.S. eighth-grade students, while ICILS surveys a nationally representative sample of U.S. eighth-grade teachers.

Emphasis in technology instruction

According to the 2018 NAEP TEL principal questionnaire results, principals1 of 61 percent of U.S. eighth-grade students reported that prior to or in eighth grade, much of the emphasis in information and communication technologies (ICT) instruction was placed on teaching students how to collaborate with others. In addition, principals of 51 percent of eighth-grade students reported that a lot of emphasis was placed on teaching students how to find information or data to solve a problem. In comparison, principals of only 10 percent of eighth-grade students reported that a lot of emphasis was placed on teaching students how to run simulations (figure 1).



According to the 2018 ICILS teacher questionnaire results, 40 percent of U.S. eighth-grade teachers reported a strong emphasis on the use of ICT instruction to develop students’ capacities to use computer software to construct digital work products (e.g., presentations). In addition, 35 percent of eighth-grade teachers reported a strong emphasis on building students’ capacities to access online information efficiently. In comparison, 17 percent reported a strong emphasis on developing students’ capacities to provide digital feedback on the work of others (figure 2).  



Resources at school

NAEP TEL and ICILS used different approaches to collect information about technology-related school resources. NAEP TEL asked about hindrances that limited schools’ capabilities to provide instruction in technology or engineering concepts. According to NAEP TEL, principals of 5 percent of U.S. eighth-grade students indicated that a lack or inadequacy of internet connectivity was a “moderate” or “large” hindrance in their schools. However, principals of 61 percent of eighth-grade students indicated that a lack of time due to curriculum content demands was a “moderate” or “large” hindrance. Principals of 44 percent of eighth-grade students indicated that a lack of qualified teachers was a “moderate” or “large” hindrance (figure 3).



ICILS asked about the adequacy of school resources to support ICT use in teaching. Eighty-six percent of U.S. teachers “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that technology was considered a priority for use in teaching. Nearly three-quarters of teachers “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that their schools had access to sufficient digital learning resources and had good internet connectivity (74 and 73 percent, respectively) (figure 4).



Use of technology in teaching

Teachers of U.S. eighth-grade students reported that they often used technology in their teaching practices. ICILS found that 64 percent of U.S. teachers regularly (i.e., “often” or “always”) used technology to present class instruction. Fifty-four percent of teachers regularly used technology to communicate with parents or guardians about students’ learning. In addition, 45 percent of teachers regularly used technology to provide remedial or enrichment support to individual or small groups of students, and a similar percentage (44 percent) regularly used technology to reinforce skills through repetition of examples (figure 5).



ICILS also reported results from U.S. eighth-grade teachers about how they collaborated on technology use. About three-quarters “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they talked to other teachers about how to use technology in their teaching. Similarly, about three-quarters “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they shared technology resources with other teachers in the school. More than half of the teachers “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they collaborated with colleagues on the development of technology-based lessons.

Overall, the responses of teachers and principals suggested that emphasis had been put on different aspects of instruction for eighth-grade students. The majority of schools had enough digital resources and adequate internet access. However, technologies were also used differently in different teaching practices.

It should be noted that the data presented here were collected in 2018; any changes since then due to the coronavirus pandemic are not reflected in the results reported here. The NAEP TEL and ICILS samples both include public and private schools. The 2018 ICILS also included a principal questionnaire, but the questions are not directly related to the topics included in this blog. Data reported in the text and figures are rounded to the nearest integer.

 

Resources for more information:

 

By Yan Wang, AIR, and Taslima Rahman, NCES


[1] The unit of analysis for TEL principal responses is student.

What National and International Assessments Can Tell Us About Technology in Students’ Learning: Eighth-Graders’ Experience with Technology

The use of technology has become an integral part of life at work, at school, and at home throughout the 21st century and, in particular, during the coronavirus pandemic.

In this post, the second in a three-part series, we present results from the NAEP TEL and ICILS student questionnaires about students’ experience and confidence using technology (see the first post for more information about these assessments and their results). These results can help to inform education systems that are implementing remote learning activities this school year.

Uses of information and communication technologies (ICT) for school

Both NAEP TEL and ICILS collected data in 2018 on U.S. eighth-grade students’ uses of ICT in school or for school-related purposes.

According to the NAEP TEL questionnaire results, about one-third of U.S. eighth-grade students reported that they used ICT regularly (i.e., at least once a week) to create, edit, or organize digital media (figure 1). About a quarter used ICT regularly to create presentations, and 18 percent used ICT regularly to create spreadsheets.



According to the ICILS questionnaire results, 72 percent of U.S. eighth-grade students reported that they regularly used the Internet to do research, and 56 percent regularly used ICT to complete worksheets or exercises (figure 2). Forty percent of eighth-grade students regularly used ICT to organize their time and work. One-third regularly used software or applications to learn skills or a subject, and 30 percent regularly used ICT to work online with other students.



Confidence in using ICT

Both the 2018 NAEP TEL and ICILS questionnaires asked U.S. eighth-grade students about their confidence in their ICT skills. NAEP TEL found that about three-quarters of eighth-grade students reported that they were confident that they could—that is, they reported that they “probably can” or “definitely can”—compare products using the Internet or create presentations with sound, pictures, or video (figure 3). Seventy percent were confident that they could organize information into a chart, graph, or spreadsheet.



ICILS found that 86 percent of U.S. eighth-grade students reported that they knew how to search for and find relevant information for a school project on the Internet (figure 4). Eighty-three percent knew how to both upload text, images, or video to an online profile and install a program or app. About three-quarters of eighth-grade students knew how to change the settings on their devices, and 65 percent knew how to edit digital photographs or other graphic images.



Years of experience using computers

In the 2018 ICILS questionnaire, U.S. eighth-grade students were also asked how many years they had been using desktop or laptop computers. One-third of eighth-grade students reported using computers for 7 years or more—that is, they had been using computers since first grade (figure 5). This finding was similar to results from the Computer Access and Familiarity Study (CAFS), which was conducted as part of the 2015 NAEP. The CAFS found that in 2015, about 35 percent of eighth-grade public school students reported first using a laptop or desktop computer in kindergarten or before kindergarten.

Nineteen percent of eighth-grade students reported that they had used computers for at least 5 but less than 7 years. However, 9 percent of eighth-grade students had never used computers or had used them for less than one year, meaning they had only started using computers when they reached eighth grade.



Overall, responses of eighth-grade students showed that some had more years of experience using computers than others. Although there were differences in students’ use of ICT for school-related purposes, most students felt confident using ICT.

It should be noted that the data presented here were collected in 2018; any changes since then due to the coronavirus pandemic or other factors are not reflected in the results reported here. The NAEP TEL and ICILS samples both include public and private schools. Data reported in the text and figures are rounded to the nearest integer.

 

Resources for more information:

 

By Yan Wang, AIR, and Taslima Rahman, NCES

What National and International Assessments Can Tell Us About Technology in Students’ Learning: Eighth-Graders’ Readiness to Use Technology

Across the country in 2020, students, teachers, and parents have had to adapt to changes in the delivery of education instruction due to the coronavirus pandemic and turn to information and communication technologies (ICT) to learn, interact, and assess progress. It is important that we are able to assess students’ abilities to understand and use technology now more than ever. This post, the first in a three-part series, discusses the results of two technology-focused assessments, NAEP TEL and ICILS, which NCES administered in 2018 (see textbox for more information about these assessments).

Students’ performance on NAEP TEL and ICILS

According to the 2018 NAEP TEL, 46 percent of U.S. eighth-grade students scored at or above the NAEP Proficient level, meaning that they were able to demonstrate the selection and use of an appropriate range of tools and media (figure 1). According to the 2018 ICILS, 25 percent of eighth-grade students scored at or above proficiency level 3 for computer and information literacy—that is, they demonstrated the capacity to work independently when using computers as information-gathering and management tools. In addition, 20 percent of eighth-grade students scored in the upper region for computational thinking, meaning that they demonstrated an understanding of computation as a problem-solving framework.


Figure 1. Percentage of eighth-grade students identified as at or above proficient, by assessment: 2018


There are many factors that may affect performance on these assessments, such as access to technology, devices, hardware, and software; access to learning opportunities using technology; amount of experience using technology; and attitudes toward technology.

Student’s participation in technology-related classes

For NAEP TEL, students were asked if they were currently taking a technology-related class or if they had taken one in the past. In 2018, about 57 percent of U.S. eighth-grade students were either currently enrolled in or had taken at least one technology-related class, such as industrial technology, engineering, or a class that involved learning to use, program, or build computers (table 1). In addition, a higher percentage of students who had completed a technology-related class before or during eighth-grade scored at or above the NAEP Proficient level, compared with students who had not completed such a class (table 2).




Overall, both assessments show that a portion of students demonstrated the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the assessment’s defined proficiency measures, although more than half reported taking technology-related classes before or during eighth grade.

It should be noted that the data presented here were collected in 2018; any changes since then due to the coronavirus pandemic or other factors are not reflected in the results reported here. The NAEP TEL and ICILS samples both include public and private schools, but the two assessments use different methods for reporting student performance. Data from these assessments do not support any causal inferences as they are not experimental studies. Data reported in the text and figures are rounded to the nearest integer.

 

Resources for more information:

By Mary Ann Fox, AIR, and Taslima Rahman, NCES

Teaching with Technology: U.S. Teachers’ Perceptions and Use of Digital Technology in an International Context

The coronavirus pandemic forced teachers across the world to immediately transition instruction to a virtual setting in early 2020. To understand U.S. teachers’ level of preparedness for this shift in an international context, this blog examines recent international data from U.S. teachers’ responses to questions on the following topics:

  • Their perceptions of information and communications technologies (ICT) resources
  • Their use of ICT for instruction prior to the pandemic

In general, the results suggest that U.S. teachers are more resourced in ICT than their international peers, and they use ICT at a similar frequency at school when teaching.

 

Teachers’ perceptions of ICT resources at their school

The quantity and quality of ICT resources available in school systems prior to the coronavirus pandemic may impact teachers’ access to such resources for instructional purposes while classrooms are functioning in a virtual format. The United States participated in the 2018 International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS), which asked questions about ICT resources to a nationally representative sample of eighth-grade teachers from 14 education systems.

The results from this study show that 86 percent of eighth-grade teachers both in the United States and across ICILS 2018 education systems “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that ICT is considered a priority for use in teaching (figure 1). Compared with the ICILS 2018
averages,[1] higher percentages of U.S. eighth-grade teachers “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with various statements about the use of ICT.

While 86 percent of U.S. eighth-grade teachers “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that “ICT is considered a priority for use in teaching,” only 61 percent “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that “there is sufficient opportunity for me to develop expertise in ICT” (figure 1). Additionally, 62 percent of U.S. eighth-grade teachers “strongly agreed” or “agreed” that “there is enough time to prepare lessons that incorporate ICT.” These disparities may have had an impact on teacher capacity during the sudden shift to 100 percent online learning as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which would be a good topic for future research and analyses.  


Figure 1. Percentage of eighth-grade teachers who reported that they “strongly agree” or “agree” with statements about using ICT in teaching at school, by statement: 2018

p < .05. Significantly different from the U.S. estimate at the .05 level of statistical significance.

¹ Did not meet the guidelines for a sample participation rate of 85 percent and not included in the international average.
² National Defined Population covers 90 to 95 percent of National Target Population.
NOTE: ICT = information and communications technologies. The ICILS 2018 average is the average of all participating education systems meeting international technical standards, with each education system weighted equally. Statements are ordered by the percentages of U.S. teachers reporting “strongly agree” or “agree” from largest to smallest.
SOURCE: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), The International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS), 2018. Modified reproduction of figure 17 from U.S. Results from the 2018 ICILS Web Report.


Teachers’ perceptions of the use of ICT for instruction

Teachers’ views on the role of ICT in virtual instruction during the coronavirus pandemic are not yet clear. However, in 2018, when instruction was conducted in physical classrooms, most U.S. eighth-grade teachers participating in ICILS expressed positive perceptions about “using ICT in teaching and learning at school,” as did many teachers internationally.

Among eighth-grade teachers in the United States, 95 percent agreed that ICT “enables students to access better sources of information,” 92 percent agreed that ICT “helps students develop greater interest in learning,” and 92 percent agreed that ICT “helps students work at a level appropriate to their learning needs.” On average across other education systems participating in ICILS, at least 85 percent of teachers agreed with each of these statements (Fraillon et al. 2019).

Seventy-five percent of U.S. eighth-grade teachers in 2018 agreed that ICT “improves academic performance of students,” which was higher than the ICILS international average of 71 percent. The percentages of teachers who agreed with this statement varied across education systems, from three-quarters or more of teachers in Chile, Denmark, Kazakhstan, and Portugal to less than half of teachers in Finland and North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany).

 

Frequency of teachers’ use of ICT

Teachers’ reported use of ICT for instruction in physical classroom settings may provide insight into their level of experience as they transition to virtual settings during the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2018, half of U.S. eighth-grade teachers reported “using ICT at school when teaching” every day, which was not significantly different from the ICILS average of 48 percent. However, the U.S. percentage was lower than the percentages of teachers in Moscow (76 percent), Denmark (72 percent), and Finland (57 percent) (figure 2).


Figure 2. Percentage of eighth-grade teachers who reported using ICT at school every day when teaching, by education system: 2018

p < .05. Significantly different from the U.S. estimate at the .05 level of statistical significance.
¹ Met guidelines for sample participation rates only after replacement schools were included.
² National Defined Population covers 90 to 95 percent of National Target Population.
³ Did not meet the guidelines for a sample participation rate of 85 percent and not included in the international average.
⁴ Data collected at the beginning of the school year.
NOTE: ICT = information and communications technologies. The ICILS 2018 average is the average of all participating education systems meeting international technical standards, with each education system weighted equally. Education systems are ordered by their percentages of teachers reporting using ICT at school when teaching from largest to smallest. Italics indicate the benchmarking participants.
SOURCE: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), The International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS), 2018. Modified reproduction of figure 15 from U.S. Results from the 2018 ICILS Web Report.


For more information on teachers and technology, check out NCES’s ICILS 2018 website, the international ICILS website, and the earlier NCES blog “New Study on U.S. Eighth-Grade Students’ Computer Literacy.”

 

By Amy Rathbun, AIR, and Stephen Provasnik, NCES

 


[1] The ICILS average is the average of all participating education systems meeting international technical standards, with each education system weighted equally. The United States did not meet the guidelines for a sample participation rate of 85 percent, so it is not included in the international average.

 

Reference

Fraillon, J., Ainley, J., Schulz, W., Friedman, T., and Duckworth, D. (2019). Preparing for Life in a Digital World: IEA International Computer and Information Literacy Study 2018 International Report. Amsterdam: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.

New Education Data from the Household Pulse Survey

Recognizing the extraordinary information needs of policymakers during the coronavirus pandemic, NCES joined a partnership with the Census Bureau and four other federal statistical agencies to quickly develop a survey to gather key indicators of our nation’s response to the global pandemic. Thus, the experimental 2020 Household Pulse Survey began development on March 23, 2020, and data collection began on April 23, 2020. This new survey provides weekly national and state estimates, which are released to the public in tabular formats one week after the end of data collection.

The Household Pulse Survey gathers information from adults about employment status, spending patterns, food security, housing, physical and mental health, access to health care, and educational disruption. The education component includes questions about the following:

  • The weekly time spent on educational activities by students in public and private elementary and secondary schools
  • The availability of computer equipment and the Internet for instructional purposes
  • The extent to which computer equipment and the Internet for students were provided or subsidized

Since this survey is designed to represent adults 18 years old and over, the responses to the education questions concern students within the households of adults 18 years old and over, not the percentage of students themselves.

In the Household Pulse Survey during the weeks of April 23 through May 5, adults reported that their average weekly time spent on teaching activities with elementary and secondary students in their household was 13.1 hours. These results differed by educational attainment: adults who had not completed high school reported a weekly average of 9.9 hours in teaching activities with children, whereas adults with a bachelor’s or higher degree reported 13.9 hours (figure 1). In terms of the average weekly time spent on live virtual contact between students in their household and their teachers, adults reported a lower average of 4.1 hours.



Adults’ reports about the school instruction model need to be interpreted carefully because respondents could choose multiple types of approaches. A higher percentage of adults with a bachelor’s or higher degree (84 percent) reported that classes for elementary and secondary students in their household had moved to a format using online resources than did adults who had completed some college or an associate’s degree (74 percent), adults who had completed only high school (64 percent), or adults who had not completed high school (57 percent).

Higher percentages of adults with higher levels of education than of adults with lower levels of education reported that computers and the Internet were always available for educational purposes for elementary and secondary students in their households (figure 2).



The percentage of adults who reported that the school district provided a computer or digital device for children in their households to use at home for educational purposes was higher for adults who had not completed high school (44 percent) than for adults with a bachelor’s or higher degree (33 percent). Also, a higher percentage of adults who had not completed high school than of adults with higher levels of educational attainment reported financial assistance for student Internet access.

It is important to note that the speed of the survey development and the pace of the data collection efforts have led to policies and procedures for the experimental Household Pulse Survey that are not always consistent with traditional federal survey operations. Data should be interpreted with proper caution.  

More information on the Household Pulse Survey, detailed statistical tables, and microdata sets are available at https://www.census.gov/householdpulsedata. The Household Pulse Survey site includes breakouts of the data by other characteristics, such as race/ethnicity. In addition to participating in the development of this new survey, NCES has also generated new analyses based on existing data that respond to new needs for policy information, such as the availability of the Internet for student learning.

 

By Xiaolei Wang, AIR